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Last Updated on September 14, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

The Prevalence of Evil in the World

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz clearly establishes in this work that he realizes sin and evil exist in the world. From a Christian standpoint, he believes that sin entered with the initial Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden and that all of humanity is cursed with inherent sin. There is prevalent evil in society, and the world seems to constantly get worse and worse. This fact Leibniz can’t deny, and he shows how evil is, in his opinion, necessary for God’s design rather than a flaw in that design.

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The Omnipotence and Benevolence of God

Despite the sin of mankind, Leibniz stresses God’s divinity, power, and benevolence constantly throughout the text. God, he argues, is as he is described in the Bible—pure, holy, and righteous, as well as kind and all-powerful. This doesn’t seem to interact well with the obvious reality of evil in the world, but Leibniz stresses that God allows sin to exist because the existence of darkness, strife, and pain directs the world toward goodness and benevolence. “This is,” he famously writes, “the best of all possible worlds”—an idea that French philosopher Voltaire would later lampoon in his novel Candide. Leibniz also stresses that life on this earth is not the end goal of humanity; the ultimate objective is instead to be purified and enter into a perfect, eternal existence in heaven with God.

The Necessity of Free Will

Leibniz argues that humanity has been given free will to choose good or evil, and it is this choice which allows a true relationship with God. Throughout the text, he weaves together the ideas of sin and purity as the opposite ends of human existence, with humanity being offered the freedom to choose. This freedom gives the choice for good and a relationship with God much more impact as opposed to an automatic, robotic reaction for good. In order for humanity to choose to enter into a relationship with God, Leibniz argues, humanity must be allowed to choose evil. He writes of free will:

Such is God’s gift of reason to those who make ill use thereof. It is always a good in itself; but the combination of this good with the evils that proceed from its abuse is not a good with regard to those who in consequence thereof become unhappy. Yet it comes to be by concomitance, because it serves a greater good in relation to the universe. And it is doubtless that which prompted God to give reason to those who have made it an instrument of their unhappiness. Or, to put it more precisely, in accordance with my system God, having found among the possible beings some rational creatures who misuse their reason, gave existence to those who are included in the best possible plan of the universe. Thus nothing prevents us from admitting that God grants goods which turn into evil by the fault of men, this often happening to men in just punishment of the misuse they had made of God’s grace.

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